THE VEIL OF ILLUSION by Rebecca Ryman

THE VEIL OF ILLUSION

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Ryman's sequel to Olivia and Jai (1990)--a tale of lust, racism, and honor in the British Raj--has noble intentions but lacks the subtlety and restraint to realize them. The story of the Raventhornes continues in 1870 with Olivia, in a laudanum haze, mourning the memory of her beloved Jai, a Eurasian revolutionary hanged 13 years earlier for his participation in the Bibighar massacre, a savage attack on hundreds of British women and children. The massacre's specter hovers over Olivia's son and daughter: Despite their wealth, both Amos and Maya are shunned in Calcutta, branded as half-castes unacceptable in either British or Indian society. Maya's prospects improve when Christian Pendlebury appears on the scene, new to India's civil service and impervious to local prejudices. The couple's romance, however, faces opposition from all sides. Olivia doubts Christian's fidelity; Christian's father, Sir Jasper (who has vile secrets and schemes of his own), is repelled by Maya's impure Eurasian lineage; and Kyle Hawkesworth, a dissident promoting Eurasian liberties, views Maya's romance as an attempt to escape her painful heritage. Among needless plot machinations is the arrival of Alistair Birkhurst, Olivia's vengeful son from a loveless first marriage, determined to usurp Amos at every turn; the story, though, gains cohesion from Olivia's unremitting search for the truth concerning Jai's death: the eventual exposure of a government coverup proves his innocence. Finally, the revelation of deadly secrets, a suicide, attempted murder, arson, near insanity, and brotherly reconciliation bring all to a close with breakneck speed, leaving Maya still unmarried but finally content with her identity, a happy future promised. The pleasures offered by distinctive characters and a fine sense of period mores are diminished by a convoluted plot and painful overwriting (""the mauve fingers of dawn pushed aside the indigo shrouds of night"").

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 1995
Page count: 640pp
Publisher: St. Martin's